Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create or intend to create an attorney-client relationship. This blog post should never be used to replace the advice of your personal attorney.


There are both state and federal regulations concerning the sending of spam messages in the United States. State laws regulate the use of commercial emails as marketing tools in a particular state. Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (“CAN-SPAM”) is the federal law affecting all companies operating in the United States. 

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and What It Means for Email Marketing

The Can-Spam Act became the first piece of legislation with the primary purpose of regulating electronic messages in the United States. The Can-Spam Act applies to emails with the purpose of the promotion of a commercial product, indeed, it applies to all commercial emails, including business-to-business messages. However, Can-Spam does not apply to transactional and relationship emails. Can-Spam includes guidelines for both contacting email recipients and for email content.

You may think your business is not affected by Can-Spam since you are not a spammer, but Can-Spam governs the way that marketers generally communicate by email and there may be aspects of email marketing that you did not realize were “spam” under Can-Spam.

TCPA Protect can help you perform your marketing campaign in a way that will guarantee you are in complete Can-Spam compliance.

What Does Illegal Spam Look Like?

It’s generally easy to spot a commercial email that violates the anti-spam laws. First, it would lack a clear “From:”, header information, and subject lines. Second, illegal spam doesn’t provide the postal address and contact information of the email marketer. Third, illegal spam also gives no opportunity to opt-out of future emails. (Businesses need to honor all unsubscribe (opt-out) requests within 10 days of receipt.) Finally, all email messages that contain adult content must clearly state so in the subject line. If a commercial email violates any of these principles, it becomes illegal.

The Main Points for Email Marketers

*No false or misleading header information.

*No deceptive or misleading subject lines. If your email is for marketing, you cannot make your subject line something deceptive “Scheduling of next family reunion.” The subject line must accurately reflect the email content.

*Identify your email as an advertisement.

*Inform recipients where you are located.

*Include opt-out information.

What’s the Punishment for Anti-Spam Law Violations?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in charge of investigating Can-Spam complaints. The State Attorneys General, internet service providers, and federal agencies also have the power to investigate and post punishments. These vary from fines to business license suspension. The current version of the anti-spam laws limit the ability of citizens to sue spammers. Individual cases have reached court, but they’re more of an exception.